Vic Johnson Seeking Compliments – Times-Herald


In July of last year, the state had no choice but to kill 3.2 million trout at two hatcheries in Southern California to stop an outbreak of bacterial infection.

The news apparently disappeared faster than the trout. Of course, that was during COVID-19. But it deserved national attention, says Vic Johnson, 77, de Vallejo, a dedicated fly fisherman and author of eight books on the subject, including the recent “What Happens Behind the Hatchery Door Today ‘hui? “

“It’s like 10 percent of the total California supply. You can’t grow 3 million trout overnight, ”Johnson said.

If the bacteria and the state wiped out 3.2 million deer, people would protest, Johnson suggested. However, a devastation of fish has remained under the radar because the fish “aren’t warm and cuddly,” he said.

Fish are vital, Johnson said emphatically, especially “farmed” fish in hatcheries. Due to demand, Johnson said 62% of all fish consumed will be grown on farms by 2030.

“The days of catching our fish in the ocean or in the bay – although it still happens – will be shorter, as more people are living longer and needing food,” Johnson said.

The retired civil engineer apparently exhausted all that could be said about fly fishing in seven books, with the first book, “Fiberglass Fly Rods,” released in 1996. But a closer look at the history and Progress in the Hatcheries was a book Johnson wouldn’t have let you slip away.

“You would think that after hundreds of years of fly fishing, every subject has been explored in detail. It turns out to be wrong, ”Johnson said.

A trout is inspected at the Trinity River Hatchery. (Courtesy photo)

It took two years of research, traveling across the country with his wife, Nancy, hitting hatcheries from Idaho to Arkansas, Wisconsin and South Carolina. Topics covered include physicians specializing in biosecurity, climate change and aquaculture.

“My concept of writing a book is probably not the ‘mainstream’. Most fishing writers are very familiar with the subject of their book, ”Johnson wrote in the introduction. “Conversely, I select a topic that most anglers, including me, don’t quite understand.”

For the dedicated fisherman, visiting the hatcheries and learning about its process, purpose, and technologies was like a child watching Santa Claus coming down the chimney. Maybe better.

Pick up the code marking machine at the Trinity River Hatchery in Lewiston, upstate. A thread tag the diameter of a human hair is inserted into the muzzle of the small fish, essentially providing information about the life cycle.

Watching a member of the Hoopa Valley Tribe use the code writing equipment as thousands of fish are tagged, “I’m here with my mouth open,” Johnson said.

His introduction to modern technology and fish hatcheries had begun.

“Nancy and I went all over the United States to find out what they were doing; seeing how hatcheries have changed over the past 65 years, ”said Johnson, acknowledging much of his hatchery knowledge,“ this is what we learned in science class when we were kids.

Johnson said one of the highlights of the research was asking US Fish and Wildlife Service curator April Gregory of Spearfish, ND, to write the book’s foreword.

Of the 155,000 visitors Gregory sees pass through Spearfish each year, “I was probably the first she met who wanted to understand how fish hatcheries work,” smiled Johnson.

What Johnson has achieved in his travels: Some of the best fish experts are in his backyard.

“It turns out the really smart fishermen are at UC Davis,” Johnson said, noting that the facility “is one of the premier aquaculture institutions in the United States.”

In the final chapter of the book, Johnson discusses the possible impact of climate change.

“We are all looking for the culprit. But the trout don’t care who’s to blame. The reality is that the water heats up, ”Johnson said.

Trout prefer cooler water that contains more oxygen – it is believed that brown and rainbow trout begin to experience stress when the temperature rises to around 68 degrees – which means when the water warms up , “Than in California, they have to swim farther into the mountains or where the water is cooler,” Johnson said, assuming through his interviews that 2050 could be an expiration date for many fish due to of climate change.

Some species may change their habitat, Johnson says.

“Where we’ve traditionally tried to catch fish ‘A’ this will now be home to fish ‘B’,” Johnson said, adding that his ninth book could be one approach to dealing with climate change.

“From a fish’s point of view, it’s’ Guys, I don’t care who or what to blame. If it changes the wrong way, I’m dead. ”

Granted, “it’s a lot more science than I understand,” Johnson said.

At least Johnson understood the concept of commercializing his work. Photographs are vital with more than one per page in the 120-page softcover book.

“Writing 120 pages of words would bore everyone,” Johnson said.

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